Businessmen have expressed disappointment over the Pakistan government's decision to ban onion exports to India via the land route, saying the move was not in the interest of bilateral trade or merchants who had bagged sizeable orders.
“Such decisions hamper trade between the two countries and cause wastage of perishable goods.
This is in the interest of neither the government nor traders and consumers,” said Iftikhar Ali Malik, vice-president of the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
“The issuance of such notifications in not a good practice and not in the interest of bilateral trade, which has been growing at a snail’s pace despite having enormous potential,” said Malik, a former president of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
He demanded that the customs authorities at the Wagah land border crossing clear contracted consignments of 300 truckloads of onion which are stuck at the frontier.
Pakistani authorities yesterday clamped down on onion exports via Wagah, with officials saying the move was necessary to stabilise surging prices in domestic markets.
However, Malik said such developments on either side of the border would further bring down trade volumes.
Some traders like Pakistan Agri Forum chairman Ibrahim Mughal backed the government’s decision.
He said the prices of onions shot up in domestic markets because of the export of approximately 3,00,000 tonnes to India and other countries.
“Middlemen turned into exporters to earn maximum profits at the cost of local consumers,” he said.
Around 8,000 tonnes of onions had already been exported to India from Punjab alone, Mughal said.
Onions must be sold to local consumers at Rs. 30 a kg as growers, due to good production in the country, sold it at Rs. 20 a kg, he said.
Mughal urged the government to impose complete restrictions on onion exports to India till there were adequate stocks to meet domestic needs.
He said approximately two million tonnes of onions are expected to be produced in the coming months and this would be enough to meet the country’s needs.
Before the federal government imposed the ban on onions export to India, several traders had bagged major orders from India, where prices surged late last year due to poor production.
Three hundred trucks loaded with thousands of tonnes of onion were not cleared by customs authorities at Wagah soon after the government’s announcement on Wednesday night.
The trucks remained parked at the frontier as exporters and middlemen insisted on the clearance of their consignments by staging protests in Lahore.